Kunming officials told to learn English and other languages
Officials aged below 50 in Kunming, Yunnan, will be required to learn basic English and various Southeast Asian languages as links improve between the province and neighbouring countries.
Kunming Mayor Qiu He said officials should learn 300 English phrases and 100 phrases each in Vietnamese, Myanmar and Lao by October 1, China's National Day, Xinhua reported yesterday.
He said the city's Communist Party and government would make language skill one of the criteria involved in officials' promotion.
The western province borders Vietnam, Myanmar and Laos, and trade with them is substantial. Last year, Premier Wen Jiabao signed a joint declaration with leaders of five neighbouring countries, including Vietnam, Myanmar and Laos, at a Greater Mekong Subregion meeting in Laos. China promised to deepen economic integration by strengthening links in power, transport and telecommunications.
A highway connecting Kunming and the Thai capital Bangkok via Laos was completed last year, and a highway network connecting Yunnan with the five countries will also be built to facilitate trade.
One area of concern, however, was the amount of cross-border crime. For instance, around the beginning of the year, about 50 Chinese teenagers were kidnapped and transported to casinos in Myanmar, and their families had to pay thousands of yuan in ransoms.
Drug trafficking was also a problem in the past decade as many people brought drugs into China from Myanmar and Vietnam.
The city needs more than 600 translators who can speak Southeast Asian languages, according to a Kunming Federation of Returned Chinese representative, in particular Vietnamese, Lao, Hindi, Khmer and Bahasa Indonesia.
However, only about 200 students studied such languages each year in the province. The organisation suggested that private language schools could teach the required languages.